Treasure Trail Leads to Springfield, Illinois

A key and a mysterious note begins a grand adventure

By Matt Bartosik
|  Thursday, Oct 1, 2009  |  Updated 3:10 PM CDT
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Downstate Treasure Hunt

What will the mysterious chest hold?

Avast mateys, and gather 'round and ye shall hear the tale of a wench who began a mighty quest to find gold and treasure in the faraway land of ... Springfield?

In May, Patty Henken of Mount Sterling discovered something incredible while restoring an antique rocking chair.

As she removed the seat, an envelope dropped to the floor that bore the typewritten words, "Finders Keepers."

Inside the over-100-year-old envelope was a key taped to a typewritten note:

"This DEXTER key ... will unlock a lead chest (cannot be located by metal detector) buried approximately 12-ft. deep in the rear of the lot located @ 1028 North Fifth Street, Springfield, Ill . . . Said lead chest contains eight $20.00 gold pieces; six $10 gold pieces; five $5.00 gold pieces; three $2 ½ dollar gold pieces and two $1.00 gold pieces..."

The note requested that the finder contact the Springfield newspaper upon discovery and signed off "Good Luck, Chauncey Wolcott."

Henken, 48, and her husband, Buck, headed to Springfield the very next day but didn't meet with the landowners until August. Both the owners and the Henkens agreed to split any expenses and any treasure found.

"I think I'll find what Chauncey Wolcott tells me ... either an old newspaper or some writing of some sort because he wants me to contact the newspaper," Henken told the Quincy Herald-Whig. "There's something in there. I'm curious to know. I'd love to know who he is as a person and what the purpose is."

A search through Sangamon County's genealogy records and court records for "Chauncy Wolcott" came up unsuccessful.

And the search for his buried treasure has proven just as fruitless.

On Sunday, about 30 friends and family—along with a backhoe donated by Ace Construction—helped dig a large hole on the property in Springfield. They dug 15 feet deep but found nothing.

But Henken hasn't lost hope.

"Apparently, Chauncey threw [the chest] in a well," she explained. "When we went to the original mark [that was described in the letter], just below the surface was a well. ...We never got to the bottom."

The hole has been filled for now until more equipment is available. Henken has no intention of giving up.

"I'm not going to rest until I find out for sure," she said.

Matt Bartosik, a "between blogs" blogger, is lucky if he can find his keys, let alone buried treasure.

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